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What You Need to Know about the CAN-SPAM Act


Hi there now today I want to cover some quite old legislation that affects everyone who operates online. Now for many of you reading this who are experienced online marketers you’ll already know about all of this. However it’s an important area that some of our visitors who are just starting out need to be aware of and what they should do to comply.

The Reality of Life

Everybody online is sick of getting spammed to death and the US government has done something about it. In 2003, it passed the CAN-SPAM Act and this is something anybody who works online needs to know about.

CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing. Spam definitely feels like an ‘assault.’ While there were some state laws passed before CAN-SPAM, it supersedes them.

Why is it important to you? Because it regulates the types of emails you can send to people. You need to make sure you know what it’s about and you’re compliant with it. Here are the main points.

No False Identities.

You have to clearly state who you are and be that person. Pay especially close attention to the ‘from’ line and any routing information your subscribers see. The subject line also has to accurately reflect the topic of the email.

Transparency in Advertising.

All of your advertisements and promotional materials have to clearly state that they’re promotional. Your email recipients need to be informed that you’re sending them a marketing message.

Opting Out.

Your messages have to give them the easy option of unsubscribing. ‘Easy’ means they click the link and it’s a done deal. You can’t make them log in to unsubscribe or pay any kind of fees.

Adult Material.

If you deal in anything that can be considered ‘adult’ (sexually explicit material, violent video games, gambling, alcohol or drugs, etc.), this needs to be clearly specified. This was included in the Act to protect minors.

Your Location.

Your emails have to give them a physical address where they can find you offline. Most marketers put it in small print at the bottom. The physical address tells them that you’re a legit business.

That’s basically what it entails but there’s one more thing you need to check. Since CAN-SPAM was passed, some US states have passed their own laws to augment it. You need to know about these if you live in those states or market to residents of them.

The states that have added to CAN-SPAM to date are California, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, and Utah. Just to stay current, you might want to check the laws wherever you live. Anti-spam legislation is hot right now and more states will surely pass their own.

What happens if you’re not CAN-SPAM compliant?

Hefty fines that could quickly shut down your online operations. You’ll be charged as much as $11,000 for each violation and separate charges for fraud laws on top of that. There could also be jail time!

It sounds complicated, but it’s really quite simple. Make sure everybody you market to opted in to your list. Be transparent in all that you do and don’t do anything deceptive. Let them know where they can reach you and be responsive when they have questions or comments. And keep your ears open for new anti-spam laws that get passed.

Stay safe.

Toby Russell

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